My manager and his manager have been in something of a pickle lately while they board of directors has them under the gun. In other words they are currently faced with the dreaded pickle gun. They’re not the only ones. One of my colleagues is currently staring down the briny barrel of tartness from the leader of the “Center of Excellence” dictating policy and best practices for her entire company. Yet a third friend can literally smell the dill as the green projectile whizzes past him after being fired by his remote client. What do all these people have in common? What sort of issue is causing them pain? When will I stop stretching this pickle metaphor?
The problem all these people are attempting to resolve is simple to state but hard to analyze. So simply stated, some one acting as their customer/audience/manager is dissatisfied with their work. Usually dissatisfaction is easily identified and corrected. The problem is probably your’s. You’re not doing what someone is paying you money to do. This naturally makes them a little unhappy at handing over or at having handed over their money. If I pay a mechanic to rotate and balance my tires I will be somewhat dissatisfied with our transaction if they flush my radiator instead. It won’t matter one whit to me if the radiator is well flushed and feeling like new with shiny hoses and non-toxic coolants made from unicorn sweat. I paid someone to attend to my tires, not my radiator. The problem is then one of simply doing what the person paying you or directing you asked you to do, and doing it well. Complexity rears it’s briny green head (again with the pickles) if you do what they ask but they are still dissatisfied. So why are people dissatisfied with your work if you do a good job, do what you were asked to do, and do it within the time you both agreed?
First off, let’s just assume you actually are doing what is being asked and not what you think is being asked. Assumptions are the most common source of dissatisfaction in any relationship. The power dynamic in a working relationship, however, is completely skewed against you. It does not matter if your customer/manager/director is at fault for incomplete or misleading requests. Their continued dissatisfaction means you will be out of work. You can soften this blow with the knowledge you were in the right all along, but ethical certainties will not pay your rent. Your job then is to partially determine if what you think is being asked of you is actually what the person doing the asking wants. That’s a pretty confusing way of saying, “Make sure you’re following the spirit as well as the letter of the request.” Customer satisfaction often means doing what the customer doesn’t themselves know they want you to do.
Okay you’re doing all that because you’re a seasoned professional who knows language is a fickle thing full of homonyms, synonyms, acronyms, jargon, idioms, and misunderstandings. The customer is still dissatisfied. What do they want from me that I’m not getting? They want the following. They want you to demonstrate to them you are improving their lives somehow. They want you to show them how your work is a good return on their investment. They would like to see a general improvement in your deliveries over time in a longer relationship. They want you to prove they can trust you. That’s it. They want value addition, ROI, continual improvement, and trust. Nothing to complicated, eh?
I’ll go ahead and let you all chew on that for a little while. All this talk of pickle guns has made me a little hungry. Tune in later for explanations and strategies for actually implementing what I’m suggesting.
Mmmm … potato salad.